Good to hear you back on 4BC talkback on weekends!
I’m writing to you for some advice about my car – a Holden Cruze series 2 JH bought new (ex-demo) in August 2011. Since sometime before my first annual service (I only do about 7500km pa) I’ve experienced problems with my automatic transmission. When changing gear it seems to ‘hunt’ and hesitate before finding a gear and occasionally (rarely, in fact) it makes a loud clunking noise when it eventually finds the gear. These problems seem to occur only intermittently and always when starting the car from cold. I’ve found that I can cure this by turning off the engine for a while. When I restart – the problem’s gone!
My problem is that each time I take the car back to the Dealer for a service I report the problem and they tell me they checked the car and can’t replicate the problem. On one occasion the Service Manager told me “that’s a problem with automatics in small cars”. This is not a huge problem but a great disappointment because I love everything else about the car and want it to be perfect, after all – it’s the first new car I’ve ever owned. My concern now, and my reason for writing to you, is that my 3 year warranty is up in August 2014 and I want the problem fixed by then. I don’t want the risk of a huge repair bill after the warranty expires.
I know this is not your favourite car (I like your “which one is the dog” quiz on your website), but what can I do to get the dealer to fix this problem? I recently took the car to a transmission auto repairer for investigation. He couldn't find any fault either!
One last thing – I recently received your Auto Expert Newsletter and find if very interesting and informative.
Thanks for the kind words mate - it's good to be back on the wireless overnight at the weekends. I always get great response on the phone from listeners in the 4BC area.
In defence of the dealer and the auto mechanic, intermittent problems are a bastard to fix - in fact they're impossible to diagnose if they're not happening when the investigation is taking place. Still, it's very frustrating to have an insurmountable problem with your car, too.
Small autos historically do 'hunt' from time to time - but yours shouldn't because it has six speeds mate. The dealer is fobbing you off. If the car has a problem, you have a right to have it fixed. Six speeds were introduced to cure this sort of hunt/hesitation issue by making more ratios available to engines with marginal sort of torque delivery. The right ratio should just select itself smoothly; that's how these things are designed to work. The clunk might not be from the transmission; it could easily be from a driveline component like a CV or universal joint. Clunks occur when torque reverses direction rapidly in the driveline and there is some play in one of those joints that rapidly changes direction. (Like when the transmission/driveline is on a trailing throtte - engine braking - and then powers on; all the torque in the driveline reverses. The throttle often powers off automatically between changes in modern cars to smooth them out. It's a computer thing.)
I would start by getting the fluid changed out in the transmission. See if that helps. If it only happens when the car is cold, leave it with them overnight and see if they can replicate the problem from dead cold.
Frankly, though, I do not think you are alone:
Holden has already had one glitch fixed on Cruze transmissions for exactly this kind of problem, and I wonder if yours needs a software update: http://www.autoevolution.com/news/holden-fixes-cruze-s-glitchy-transmission-9062.html
I don't have a relationship with these guys, but they seem to be Cruze transmission specialists: http://www.wakelineautomotive.com/testimonials/ They might know something I don't about this issue specifically. but it says something about inherent about Cruze transmission reliability when someone can build a business fixing their innate dodgy-ness (if that's a word).
Finally, John, I would strongly advise you to put all your concerns in writing (inclusive of e-mail). Make a file of these things and do not rely on the dealer or Holden to keep the records for you. Documentation is vital if a problem develops out of warranty. You will need to demonstrate that you have raised this problem with Holden and the dealer many times - and that a solution has not been forthcoming. Holden is obliged to repair manufacturing defects for a 'reasonable' period - and certainly a transmission should last more than three years, especially when driven so few kays. Your documented records - dates and what took place - will be essential to getting them across the line, down the track. The warranty ending does not relieve Holden of its obligations to support your car - this is consumer law 101.
You should also contact holden customer care in addition to the dealer - individual dealers are often incompetent dickheads who try to fob customers off rather than help them. Holden customer car is here: http://www.holden.com.au/ownership/customer-care
I hope this helps - worst-case scenario, ring daytime 4BC talkback and tell them your problems, and tell them the dealer and Holden won't help. (This is if the transmission shits itself.) A lady named Madie Ross did this with Hyundai recently (using 3AW in Melbourne) and Hyundai did the biggest about-face on earth. Read Madie Ross's story here. The media can be a very effective tool if the problem gets serious. It's probably not an option for you at this point.
I'm very sorry to hear that you bought a Cruze. Full report on that here.